Who decides the result of the next General Election?
Unless something changes, it’s largely going to be older and better-off people.
Because those are the people who are most likely to vote.
And it’s a problem that MPs themselves have warned could lead to a crisis in our system of government.
But the problem doesn’t begin on election day, which will be May 7 this year.
It starts earlier than that, when people register to vote – or fail to do so.
An estimated 7.5 million people who are entitled to vote at an election in this country are not correctly registered.
This means they are registered wrongly, for example because they have moved house and haven’t updated their details, or simply haven’t registered at all.
Politicians have to listen to people who vote. But one way or another, they are also aware of who votes and who stays at home.
As a result, some sections society risk having less influence than others over decisions made by the Government.
Studies also show that young people are less likely to be registered to vote at elections than older people.
A study in 2011 found that only 55% of people aged 17 to 18, and only 56% of people aged 19 to 24, were registered to vote.
By contrast, 82.3% of the eligible population as a whole was registered – and 94% of people aged over 65.
It means older people have more influence over who wins the election.
People on lower incomes are also less likely to be registered.
A report by the Electoral Commission, an official watchdog, last year found that 79.6% of people in semi-skilled or unskilled jobs, or people dependent on benefits, were registered to vote – compared to 87% of professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, or senior managers.
The Electoral Commission also found that some black and ethnic minority groups are significantly less likely to be registered to vote compared to those identifying as white British.
It all means that some people’s views matter more than others in our system of government. And politicians know there’s a problem.
A report by a committee of MPs, the Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, last year warned:
“Low levels of registration and turnout among students and young people are serious problem now and could get worse.
“If a generation of young people choose not to vote, and then continue not to participate at elections as they grow older, there will be severe and long-lasting effects for turnout at UK elections, with consequent implications for the health of democracy in the UK.”
But if it’s a problem for MPs, it’s a bigger problem for people who go unrepresented in Parliament.
Politics and the work of government affects all our lives. And this election could decide some big issues – how we improve the NHS, how we ensure future generations don’t inherit massive debts, how we provide jobs and training for young people and much more.
Comedian Russell Brand caused a stir when he suggested last year that people shouldn’t vote. But the problem with that idea is that if you don’t vote then people still get elected. It just means they are chosen by somebody else.
This election is set to be the most unpredictable in decades. Nobody knows who is going to win.
And there are more credible parties to choose from than before – with the Greens and UKIP running major campaigns, alongside the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Other local candidates could also have an impact in some seats.
The good news is that it’s now easier than ever before to register to vote.
People can register online for the first time, at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote . It only takes five minutes and it helps to ensure that your voice is heard.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 21 Feb 2015
Cash strapped Newcastle City Council has had to fork out £50,000 to put right an error in a letter sent to around 180,000 voters.
The council wrote to all electors in the city on July 18 to inform them of changes in how they register to vote.
However, it contained a blunder in the section of the letter which stated whether or not they were on the open register.
Electors who were not on it were incorrectly informed that they were, and those who were, told they were not.
The error was confined to the wording of the letter, and the register is correct.
It’s understood it was down to human error – not a computer glitch – and that no data protection breach has occurred.
To sort out the mistake, the council has now rewritten to all the electors again which should arrive on Thursday, this time with the correct wording and has apologised for the confusion.
Council chief executive Pat Ritchie, speaking in her role as Electoral Registration Officer, said: “We got it wrong and I would like to apologise for any confusion.
“I’d also like to reassure everyone that although the wording in the letter was wrong the register is correct and no one’s details have been compromised in any way.”
Lib Dem Councillor Greg Stone said: “I was contacted by a number of concerned residents who were worried their data would be disclosed to marketers and used by cold callers.
“I contacted the council and asked for clarification and I was told it was down to incorrect wording.
“It’s caused a lot of anxiety and I don’t think it has been well handled.
“At a time when the council says it is strapped for cash, and with people complaining about the state of the streets, this is money that could have been better spent.”
The open register is an edited version of the electoral register which can be bought by companies to check voters’ names and addresses.
Everyone is on it unless they request to be removed from it which they can do by contacting the council’s Electoral Services by phone on 0191 2787878 and asking for Electoral Services, or emailing email@example.com.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 05 Aug 2014
> Meanwhile, down on Teesside…
Residents who have requested that their electoral roll details are not available for sale to businesses have been assured that this will remain the case.
It comes after Middlesbrough Council sent out letters explaining a new way of registering for the electoral register.
An error by the printers meant that some letters include incorrect information on the open register – previously known as the edited register – which is available for all businesses or organisations to buy.
But the authority has now issued an assurance to anyone who has previously asked for their details to be omitted from the open register that this will still be the case.
The letters were sent out to residents as part of the annual canvass of electors.
For the first time the majority of electors will not need to take any action to be included on the new electoral register.
Any Middlesbrough residents who might have any concerns about the register can contact electoral services on 01642 729771 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 05 Aug 2014